Ah, the holidays – full of festivities, food, fun… And family. Time with family is joyous but also tempting. We spent most of Thanksgiving week visiting with my in-laws (some local, some in from out-of-town). During those days, my own sinful heart made its blackness known.
My preferences and the preferences of Aaron’s family often clash – I like organization, order, quietude, plans; they like spontaneity, whimsy, noise, activity. I am rather particular; they live with laissez-faire attitudes. When we’re together, I find myself grumbling (internally, mostly) that they don’t take my wishes into consideration and judging that their lifestyle preferences are worse than mine and downright wrong. Essentially, I set myself up as the standard of right behavior, and when they deviate from my standard I store up bitterness against them.
During this visit, my sinful attitudes of pride and selfishness came to a head when we had all the family over for dinner on Monday night. Red play-dough was tracked into our freshly-cleaned carpets, and I got mad at the responsible party as well as everyone else in the family who didn’t seem to take it as seriously as I did. At the time, I felt completely justified. Examining the situation later, I could see that I had made an idol out of doing things my way – keeping my home and possessions just so, having adults and children behave in a certain way when they visit us, expecting others to value the neatness and cleanliness that I strive to maintain. Whether or not my in-laws should have said or done certain things, the fact is that I put my preferences above theirs and then sinned against them in anger. I wanted them to serve me and my ends, and I did not consider how I could seek to be a blessing to them.
I know that Aaron’s family loves me, and I know that I have been gifted with kind, Christ-loving in-laws. Yet I selfishly fail to consider their interests time and time again. I felt stuck in my sin against them, and I did not believe that God could really provide me with the promised way of escape from temptation for the duration of the Thanksgiving visit. But through God’s Word, Aaron’s help, and the counsel of some friends we met with midweek, I did find grace to respond better to our family. Not perfectly, mind you! But better.
I read Psalm 141 and asked the Lord to keep me from speaking unkind words, to help me receive correction, and to lead me to him as a refuge and defense when the temptation to judge my in-laws seemed too strong. As I thought about how my words toward Aaron’s family come from the overflow of my heart, I realized that I need to actively think kind thoughts about these family members. I had been striving to feel neutral toward them, but when I failed to replace my unkind thoughts with charitable ones, the negative thoughts kept coming back to fill the void. Ideally, I will find ways to verbally encourage my in-laws and communicate my love for them.
The visit is over now (and by God’s grace Thanksgiving day went quite well; I didn’t get mad over the gravy incident!), but I hope to keep cultivating humility toward Aaron’s family. Though I am a great sinner – proud, selfish, and angry – I have a great Savior who promises abundant grace!